Here’s a thought:
Augustine once said our hearts are restless apart from God.
Calvin once said our hearts are idol factories left to their own devices.
Reader, our hearts do indeed grow restless apart from God, and left to our own devices, we rest in front of idols of our own making. Left to our own devices, we will create idols to worship, idols of our own ego, politics, pleasure, or study.
So what we really need here is to rest and stop being busy!
Have a restless spirit? Try resting in the Author of rest.
Life is relentless.
Life also moves quickly and we need to create daily vacations when we can get away from the loud noises of our world. We need days dedicated to exhaling our busy-ness and inhaling rest.
That’s why I simply do not like how some retailers are opening up on Thanksgiving to get a headstart on the Christmas shopping season. Thanksgiving was one of the few times in American life when everything stopped for a single day and people were able to pause. With certain exceptions, they were able to enjoy time away from the grind and were reminded of the source of our blessings (small or great).
I wrote a little bit last week about taking time away on a retreat day from the world, and then how to implement it into a routine. I would urge you here to consider developing a cathedral of time, a sacred space where you can leave the world filled with problems. While cities might be bustling with activity, within the safe confines of a Roman Catholic cathedral, it is calm and restorative. Candles, hushed whispers of prayers, and soaring heights center the worshipper toward the God who fills the cosmos. Similarly, I want to recommend setting up spaces amid a full life that can be dedicated to passions and hobbies.
When life is relentless, I need to find a place to refill my weary soul before I implode. For me, I recharge when I make time to write, read, paint watercolors, or engage in physical activities. Others might find peace through piano playing, model building, scrapbooking, shooting, or baking. Whatever might bring you joy, try to engage those things.
If you do not have at least one, consider trying new things to discover new passions. Go to a symphony, take a pottery class at junior college, or join a chess club. The important thing is to find passions and pursue them, intentionally setting up a cathedral in your full life.
One more thing, please do not consider TV viewing a hobby or passion. According to most studies (and also personal experience) watching more then 1-2 hours of TV decreases happiness levels.
What are you hobbies or passions?
I mentioned my experience of a retreat day recently and I wanted to provide some practical steps to institute one.
I know what you’re probably thinking, how am I going to find time to do that?!
I hear you, finding time to do this is difficult, I get that. As a new parent, I know that it is also tough to take time away, especially if your spouse has his or her hands full with the kid(s). My suggestion for this is that perhaps you can rotate time with your spouse for a portion of the day away from home. If not, schedule an hour or two to do it. The amount of time is not the big thing initially; it’s good to just begin a personal rhythm in your life.
Without further introduction, here are my five tips if you’re trying to get away.
1 Get out the door. Leave, don’t linger at home or the office. Get out the door and go someplace new.
2 Turn off your phone. Set away messages and let key people know you’re out of contact for the day. My old boss used to say when he went on vacation, “Don’t call me if the place burns down. Unless I can do something about it, let me find out about it when I get home.” You might be surprised like me to find out the world is still going when you resurface at the end of your time away.
3 Go to a new area. Go to a regional park or a library. Spend time on the grounds of a free museum and soak in the beauty. Take a step into a wilderness area and cleanse your worrying mind with a fresh perspective.
4 Be present. Don’t be mentally elsewhere, even with your problems. Be present where you are at this day and see what God might have for you. Notice the clouds and trees, and try to slow down. Consider not speaking for the day (unless you are spoken to, don’t be rude!). I have found the discipline of silence also provides a different perspective on the day.
5 Bring nothing. No Bible (gasp), no journal (the horror!), no books (heresy!). Quite honestly, I’ve noticed that sometimes I use these things to pacify discomfort or to keep me occupied enough so that I don’t have to deal with my inner turmoil. I’d encourage you to spend this time talking to God. Talking to him, being open to what’s going on in your life, and bringing your emotional baggage to him. Be real with him, even about the bad stuff. Look at the Psalms; those are God honoring confessions of raw human emotions.
I hope you consider taking a day away! You never know what might happen if you slow down and be.
What has been your experience with a retreat day?
Have you ever chosen to take a day away from it all? Take a vacation from life and enter into a space dedicated to the pursuit of peace? Recently, I took a day away from the normal grind, and I am so glad I did.
It’s amazing what happens when I disconnect from the world for a day. Good things seems to happen when I give myself permission to step away from my own heightened sense of my own self importance, choosing to simply be instead of constantly doing.
Fortunately, I am a part of an organization that has a culture of personal care and development. One of those aspects is rooted in the need to have a retreat day, a day that is set apart from normal business, a day set apart from the mental noise that fights for control. In that day I disconnect from a lot of the noisemakers in my life: no emails, calls, letter writing, or office work. It’s just me and God.
Sound easy? Well, I hate to burst bubbles, but it’s not.
Each time I do it though, I find out just how addicted to a busy life I am. Quite frankly, I live for a full lifestyle. I simply do not function well if my plate is constantly full with no outlet— I need to have an underlining principle of rest, otherwise I will implode. Especially as an introvert, I need this constantly.
When I unplug, who I perceive myself to be is removed and I am forced to confront who I really am. I am forced to deal with my baggage instead of running away from it. My dreams and fears come out to play as well in my mind, and they take over like a tree full of screaming monkeys.
That’s why I need Jesus.
I need him to strengthen me in my fears. I need him to rightly order my dreams and assure me about my place in his house. It is there, when I have to confront my inner monologue that I need to lean on Christ. When life is relentless, I need to be reminded of who I am by pausing for one day a month or an hour every day.
If it seems like you just aren’t good enough and the inner monologue dominates your psyche, then I hope you consider taking time away from the daily grind and just be. It just might be worth the pain.
Have you ever chosen to unplug?
(Part 3 of 4 on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic Life Together)
If we are honest, most people have had a bad experience with church. While some might have been burnt by Christians in some capacity and don’t want to be a part of it (which is understandable), others might fall into the category of Christians, according to Bonhoeffer, “who cannot endure being alone.”
Community and Solitude
Let me unpack the connection between community and solitude. For a lack of a better name, those “who cannot be left alone” group have a problem. They need to have others meet their needs. Even though these individuals require others to meet their needs, they are often disappointed when other do not (stay with me!). The reason for this is because they cannot be alone. Sit with that thought for a moment.
This group is looking for a “spiritual sanatorium” in church when they really need an encounter with God alone. They’re looking for others to solve their problems when they really need God to root it out. Sounds intense, doesn’t it? Bonhoeffer, quit meddling!!
The Furnace of Personal Transformation
Being alone is something we all must face. Alone we stood before God called, alone we had to answer his call, alone we must pray, and alone we will slip into death and give an account to God. “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community,” as Bonhoeffer wrote.
Before you despair, listen to this good news! “Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.” Into community we were called, and in this community of the called you (and I!) will struggle and pray. In death, life, and on the Last Day both of us will be a “member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ.” As Luther would encourage us, “If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer they [the fellowship] suffer with me.”
Thus the tension: in fellowship we learn to be “rightly alone” and only in “aloneness do we learn to live rightly in fellowship.” Silence and speech are both marks of solitude and community, respectively. Silence does not have to be frightening. It is the stillness of the individual under God’s Word. Silence is knowing deeply that we are waiting for God’s Word and coming from that same word with a blessing.
Henri Nouwen would call this the furnace of personal transformation, since we would be alone before God. It forges the individual not only in right hearing, but right speaking as well.
Being alone offers the opportunity to intercede for others. Intercession is a lynchpin for Christian fellowship, the fellowship lives and exists by the intercession for one another, or else it collapses inward.
You might be asking yourself what about those really annoying people. Even for those who might repel us, bringing him or her to God’s presence will shift our focus and the reality that they are a poor human in need of grace will come into clearer focus. The repelling nature will fall away and we will see that person in their need.
Setting aside time to be alone will transform us. It is through those times that we will receive strength and blessing. The blessing of aloneness will then lead into blessing of fellowship. The strength of fellowship and strength of aloneness is done solely through the strength of God’s Word. As you can see, both being alone and together are so essential to life in the community of faith.
Now that we’ve walked through the intensity of being alone, now we get to the good stuff next time. Until then!
Have you tried a time of solitude?